If you ask an interior designer working today if the carpeted, carpeted, laid out, plump and hung bowels of a heritage building should reflect its history, the answer will always be yes. There is a reverence among interior designers for the art of visual storytelling that often begins with the bricks and mortar of space as an architectural shell. According to many, there should be a connection between the decorative pediments, sloping gables, sash windows and twist fireplaces of heritage properties with the rugs, curtains, lampshades and furniture chosen by your architect. interior.
As Camilla Clarke, Creative Director of design firm Albion Nord, says, “It all depends on history and the environment when designing rooms in heritage and listed properties. Clarke and her team make a point of sharing property research, the history of their location, and details of the original architecture with their clients to complete the original proposal of fabrics, furnishings and accessories. “It helps contextualize the design process into something meaningful,” she adds.
Putting a price on a property’s character requires mastering the ebb and flow of the public’s whims and fancies. Savvy buyers with a penchant for period style will pay worthy premiums for properties loaded with personality and charm. One such example is Chapter House, a residential development in Covent Garden by Londonewcastle, with apartments currently on the market starting at £ 995,000. The development, which houses 40 new apartments, is located behind the original 1839 facade of a building established by the architectural firm Gibson & Russell, which dissolved before the turn of the century.
Apt, the current architect of the project, was commissioned to rehabilitate the building abandoned for many years. It appeared very early on that the facade of the building should be given priority to contextualize each aesthetic decision.
“The existing façade directly defined the spaces we designed behind it,” explains Stéphane Piazza, project manager at Apt. “The inconsistent dimensions and shapes of the existing windows determined the function of the rooms, and whether we would have single or double space behind them, for example. You couldn’t have designed it from scratch, ”he told himself. And it’s true – the peculiarities of the façade influenced the sympathetic architectural spaces that Apt was able to create.
Perhaps Chapter House’s mainstay is the brand new penthouse suites that sit atop the original façade. They extend the two-story metal clad building, set back from street level behind gabled roofs to avoid hitting the carefully restored Victorian brickwork. In a recent exciting project behind the restored cast and air brick reproduction of the facade, Ben Spriggs, the editor-in-chief of ELLE Decoration UK, was tasked with the complete overhaul of one of the two penthouses.
“Chapter House provided a great structure to work with – the perfect canvas,” says Spriggs. “I have always been aware of the historical context and the history attached to the building itself. The modern pieces we have used, such as the marble dining table by Mario Bellini from Béton Brut, the sumptuous velvet upholstery from the British brand Sedilia and the beautifully crafted wooden pieces from Pinch and Another Country, all sit comfortably. in a historic setting. The ELLE Decoration penthouse is currently on sale for £ 5,495,000.
Across the pond, interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot has a similar task ahead. The 375 residential suites at the Hilton Towers at the Waldorf Astoria New York, due for completion in 2022, are undergoing extensive restoration. Deniot was commissioned by developer Dajia Insurance Group and architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to restore the luxurious residences to their former Art Deco glory. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill are responsible for orchestrating the complex restoration of the project, along with Building Conservation Associates, Inc and Higgins Quasebarth & Partners LLC. Together, the team has invested years of research and planning to understand the hotel’s nearly 100-year heritage, while updating it with contemporary furnishings and accessories.
Queue Deniot, who says winning the Waldorf Astoria New York job is like “winning the biggest trophy in town.” With that in mind, he told me, “there are a lot of responsibilities that go with this trophy. It’s not about getting the prize, it’s about having the utmost respect for this trophy.
“When you’ve been asked to add your own touch to something as iconic as the Waldorf, you need to ensure that each element serves and respects the history and heritage of the building. Your work must complement its existing foundations. Every design decision must be justified; everything must be in phase.
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To answer the case, Deniot was inspired by the history of the building, studying its events, its stories, its symbols and the influential guests it welcomed. “I wanted New Yorkers to feel proud of this building again,” he says, “so I removed the gimmicks and designed spaces that tease, play and pay homage to Art Deco without imitating the style. . The result is something that merges the classic with the contemporary. He believes that with any restoration or renovation project, “it is crucial to draw inspiration from the history of each place to enable them to survive and be legitimate.
Returning to London, Waldorf Astoria was also appointed operator of Admiralty Arch, which is slated to reopen this year as the restored Admiralty Arch Waldorf Astoria London. The hotel, which was commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of Queen Victoria and designed by Sir Aston Webb, will have 96 rooms and suites and private residences. Michael Blair, founder of Blair Associates Architecture, and David Mlinaric CBE, design consultant on the project, lead the restoration design team for Admiralty Arch, as well as for the British Embassy in Paris, Spencer House , The Royal Opera House and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Mlinaric believes in the importance of a “historical imaginary” in approaching the restoration and sensible modernization of historic buildings. “Research as much as possible,” he says, “but you need a historical imagination for the things you can’t research.”
Now in retirement, the long-lasting success and reception of Mlinaric’s projects, he owes it to his motto, which has roads in the army. “This collection of words: shape, shadow, silhouette, surface, spacing and movement, is just as useful for target practice as it is for finding contemporary furniture for historic buildings,” he says.
Interior expert Andrew Damonte works alongside Mlinaric on the project and takes a similar view. “Our work with Admiralty Arch is not limited to restoration,” he says. “It’s also about designing in a contemporary way that responds to architecture.”
For Damonte, the key to designing contemporary spaces in historic buildings is all to do with proportions. “The right proportions and comfortable design never go out of style,” he says, adding that “once the ‘shell’ of the building has been restored, specifications such as the B&B Italia chairs that surround the original table in a Regency salon have begun to spawn the magic that occurs when you compare the old and the new in a sensitive way. “
According to Paola Navone, the interior designer commissioned by COMO Hotels & Resorts for the 12th-century Tuscan hotel Castello Del Nero, which is due to reopen next month, the contrast between the old and the new is “imperative” when working. in historic spaces for modern times. “I worked closely with a team of restaurateurs to showcase the original charm of Castello,” she says.
“For example, the Renaissance frescoes have been carefully preserved and the original Tuscan terracotta floors have been waxed in white to make the color more suited to the cool and relaxing ambiance of the spaces. I also took advantage of traditional Tuscan materials that have been used for centuries in the area, such as wood, Carrara marble, Serena stone, and lime paint.
The association of the original frescoes and paneling with minimalist and modern furniture like oversized linen lampshades and low, elegant Italian furniture is due to Navona’s eye for the transcendental link between the eras of design and movements. through the centuries. She says, “Even when working on a historic building, I always create a contemporary setting in which new things – furniture, fabrics, objects, etc. can be clearly distinguished from the original items. Whatever the environment, it comes naturally to me to mix design details from different centuries and countries to create unexpected connections between objects and styles. The new pieces complement the original details with an unexpected and respectful kindness.